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The story of Liwa International Festival in Liwa “Moreeb Dune”

Once upon a time, a group of spirited local youth with a shared love for motorsports and off-road adventures came together in the captivating desert landscape of Liwa, located in the United Arab Emirates. Renowned for its vast sand dunes, Liwa offers a breathtaking natural backdrop that entices both tourists and thrill-seekers alike.

In 2001 local individuals started competing together and climbing the dunes with their bikes and cars. At that time the challenge was to reach the highest point on the dune. Just for fun, no prizes, and no sponsors.
These motivated individuals saw the enormous potential of planning a festival that would honor their passion for motorsports while showcasing the distinctive beauty of the sand of Moreeb Dune. They planned a race that would be thrilling, adventurous, and risky, drawing inspiration from traditional racing competitions and the region’s challenging sand dunes.

In order to obtain approval and support for organizing the event, the initiators contacted government officials and community leaders. “The ruler’s representative of AL Dhafra region of Abu Dhabi” strongly supported the concept after seeing the potential economic and cultural advantages of such an event. They thought it might encourage community engagement, increase tourism, and highlight the area’s rich history.

In 2004, the government approved and officially announced the establishment of the Abu Dhabi Motors Club (later changed to Liwa Sports Club). After which the first-ever Liwa International Festival officially started with the proper permissions in place, attracting competitors from all over the world who were ready to take on the heart-pounding challenge of racing up the massive sand dunes. Uphill racing, usually referred to as hill climbing, is the practice of racing up high inclines, in this instance, the steep slopes would be the enormous sand dunes of Liwa.

At the beginning, the festival used to involve two competitors one for car and the other for bikes uphill drag racing. Over time the festival evolved until the festival became a combination of multi motorsport, heritage sports and other adventures of its kind that extends for more than two weeks.

More and more racing fans and visitors began to attend as news of the event and its breathtaking surroundings spread, making it an annual festival. The event expanded in size and recognition over time, bringing in foreign racers, media attention, and a varied audience.

The Liwa International Festival’s importance grew beyond racing as it established itself as a major event on the motorsports calendar. It evolved into a combination of heritage sports, motorsports, and a complex celebration of the community’s culture, giving guests the chance to enjoy authentic Emirati hospitality, music, food, and artwork. The event benefited regional companies and artists, promoting the socio-economic growth of the area.

Moreeb Dune, also known as Tal Moreeb, is an extensive sand dune located in the Liwa Oasis area of the Empty Quarter desert (Rub’ al Khali) in the United Arab Emirates. It is considered one of the tallest sand dunes in the world, reaching heights of over 300 meters (almost 1,000 feet). Its name, “Moreeb,” translates to “terrifying” in Arabic, which gives you an idea of its imposing presence.

The dune is a popular destination for Adventure, camping experience and off-road driving enthusiasts. Every year and during the winter, it hosts the Liwa International Festival, where locals and tourists gather to witness thrilling races and competitions with various types of vehicles, including 4x4s, motorcycles, and even Horse racing, camels, and falconry.
The festival offers a range of activities and attractions, including traditional Bedouin performances, cultural displays, and food stalls. It celebrates Emirati heritage and showcases the desert’s unique beauty and challenges.

Visiting Moreeb Dune provides an opportunity to experience the vastness and majesty of the desert landscape while participating in adrenaline-fueled activities or simply enjoying the serene surroundings.